2016 Big Time Tennis Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that 2016 was the 9th year in business for this hobby-gone-mad, and between racket stringing and customization our busiest year ever.

Thanks largely to our work for the Wake Forest men’s tennis team and professional tournament stringing, we crossed the 2,000 racket threshold for the second time and for the first time since 2013:

  • 2016: 2,095
  • 2015: 1,974
  • 2014: 1,759
  • 2013: 2,149
  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

All told, we’ve strung nearly 13,000 rackets since 2008, in our spare time, which is hard to fathom.

Highlights of the year begin and end with the Wake Forest men winning their first Atlantic Coast Conference championship. So much hard work by so many people went into that championship and we are so proud to have played a part.

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We also did the stringing again for the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem, which was upgraded to a $25K event for 2016.

2016-ws-futures

And the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour Citi Open in Washington DC.

tecnifibre-citi-open-2016

Last, we always enjoy working as the part of the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our hometown ATP World Tour Winston-Salem Open. 2016 was special because we were given the responsibility of managing the stringing service.

wso-team-2016

We learned recently that the Winston-Salem Open was voted by ATP Tour players as 250 Tournament of the Year!

250-tournament-of-the-year

In my 2015 Year in Review, I concluded by saying it was hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but I do believe we were able to exceed our own expectations. I won’t make any predictions or promises for 2017, but just say CHEERS! to a great year.

cheers

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2015 Year in Review – Big Time Tennis

Our 8th year in business, 2015 was another great year for Big Time Tennis, many thanks to our individual customers, the Wake Forest University men’s and club tennis teams, and opportunities to string at some big tournaments.

Stringer of the Year Plaque

The year started in a very special way, with David being named Tennis Industry Magazine’s “Stringer of the Year” for 2014. To make it even more special, Wake Forest tennis alum David Hopkins accepted the award on David’s behalf.

Hopkins Accepts SOY Plaque

Although we did not match our record number of rackets (reached in 2013), we nearly crossed the 2,000 threshold thanks to steady work form the Wake Forest men’s team (almost 900 rackets) and the opportunity to string some new tournaments:

  • 2015: 1,974
  • 2014: 1,759
  • 2013: 2,149
  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

The Wake Forest men had an outstanding year, and I (David) was excited to be a part of it, including spending nearly two rainy weeks in Waco, Texas at Baylor University working on the MOZI Tennis stringing team.

Mozi Tennis

It was fun to work the tournament on site because I could also see Wake Forest play in the Sweet Sixteen (losing to TCU, alas) and Noah Rubin make his run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

Almost immediately after getting home from Waco, the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem began. I had never strung a Pro Circuit event, and I found it very fascinating, posting a number of blogs about it. Of course we treat all players equally in the stringing room, but with only one customer playing in the final, I was able to support Matija Pecotic, who brought home the championship trophy.

Pecotic

Thanks again to MOZI Tennis, I had the chance to string at the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour CitiOpen in Washington, DC. A highlight was having the chance to string one more racket for the Australian stalwart player and Grand Slam Champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt Racket

The Yamane family made a big contribution to the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our home town Winston-Salem Open. We even got to meet “The Magician,” Fabrice Santoro who was there coaching. Tournament stringing can be exhausting and stressful, but it is made much easier when you have a great boss, Dustin Tankersley, and get to work with your loved ones.

WSO 201520150820_112351

A final highlight of the year was having the opportunity to string rackets for all of the members of the Mount Tabor High School Girls Tennis Team. I am thankful that their coach, Taylor McDaniel, appreciates the importance of strings to performance. It is the only part of the racket that is supposed to touch the ball after all!

Mount Tabor Rackets

It’s hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but we are hoping to have the opportunity to exceed our own expectations.

Part 5: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Saturday is Day 11 of stringing for me and the men’s semi-final and women’s final day. Even though there are only a few matches, we are still busy throughout the day because at this point many players will practice earlier in the day, then turn in their rackets for stringing after practice and before their matches. There is also always the possibility of a player sending a racket off court to be strung. Dustin flew back to Dallas this morning and Alan came in to string one racket and spend the rest of the day with his son. So, it was just Jay and myself. I did three rackets for Mardy Fish, three for Sam Querrey, two for Tommy Haas, and two for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for an even 10 rackets.

I had the opportunity to watch most of the Querrey vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov semi-final match and the Pavlyuchenkova vs. Magdalena Rybarikova women’s final, which was a nice break from the stringing room. In the picture below you can see Pavlyuchenkova in the near court and Rybarikova in the far court.

Part 4: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Reflections from days 8-10 of tournament:

When matches get underway, the possibility of a player sending off an “on court” racket – a racket that a player is requesting be restrung during their match – grows. The player could have broken a string, or sometimes they want to make a tension adjustment, or sometimes they want to have a fresh racket in the event they split sets.

When the racket comes into the stringing room, usually brought by a ball kid or sometimes a coach, the intensity in the room kicks up just a little bit. You want to get the racket re-strung and back out on court as quickly as possible. You can only return the racket to a player on a changeover, so if you don’t get the racket out before the players change sides, it will delay the process for two more games.

15-18 minutes is a good aspirational time to get the racket strung and back to court. In that time we need to cut out the string, pull new string, mount the frame, string the racket, and straighten the strings, then stencil, label, and bag the racket before running it back out to court.

Jay and Dustin are much faster stringers than me, so if an “on court” racket comes in when their machine is open, they do it.  One time this tournament a racket came in from one of the players I had been stringing – Paul-Henri Mathieu – and I had to jump on it. A Wilson frame with an 18×20 string pattern and all poly string. I went as fast as I could comfortably go and got the racket back in a good time. A little adrenaline rush in the middle of the day and I got to see a few points of tennis while I was waiting to hand the racket to a ball boy!

We are now over the peak of stringing, and my numbers will go down every day from here to until the end of the tourney. Specifically:

Day 8: 15 rackets

Day 9: 15

Day 10: 8

Part 3: ATP World Tour and WTA Tour Citi Open Stringing Reflections

Reflections on days 4-7 of the tournament:

Saturday brought the second round of women’s qualifying and first round of men’s qualifying, so the numbers will be increasing for the next several days. To handle the increase flow, we bought in a fourth stringer, Alan Taylor. As you can see, Alan and I are facing each other for hour after hour so even though we just met we got to know each other pretty well.

Now that we are settled in, the days get more and more similar. We arrive at the site around 8 am and are stringing or on call until the end of the last match. So, for example, on Monday night, Jeremy Chardy defeated Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a match that concluded at 1:30 am. The following night, Sam Querrey and Igor Andreev played until 1:15 am.

Each successive day gets a bit more challenging, with more rackets and less sleep the night before. Hands, back, legs, and feet get more fatigued with each day so it becomes more and more important to sit and stretch whenever possible.

Saturday through Tuesday is the peak of the tournament in terms of numbers of players. My counts were:

Day 4: 19 rackets

Day 5: 23

Day 6: 22

Day 7: 25